F. C. (Frederick Charles) Bauer.

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THE UNIVERSITY

OF ILLINOIS

LIBRARY

G307




CHECK FOR UNBOUND
CIRCULATING COPY



Response of

Illinois Soils to

Limestone



BY F. C. BAUER



UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION

BULLETIN 405

(June, 1934)



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 303

Forty Fields Furnish Data for Study 303

Widely Varying Soil Conditions Represented 305

Amounts and Kinds of Lime Materials Applied 305

Crop Rotations Followed 307

DIFFERENCES AMONG SOILS IN RESPONSE TO LIMESTONE. ... 307

Response as Related to Natural Productivity 307

Response as Related to Chemical Factors 310

Data From Fields Discontinued Before 1931 314

RESPONSE OF INDIVIDUAL CROPS TO LIMESTONE 316

Corn 316

Wheat 320

Oats 323

Hay Crops 324

Comparative Responses of Above Crops 326

Responses of Legume Crops 327

EFFECT OF LIMESTONE ON SOIL PRODUCTIVITY LEVELS 331

RAPIDITY AND TREND OF RESPONSE TO LIMESTONE 334

Dark Soils With Heavy, Noncalcareous Subsoils 335

Dark Soils With Open, Noncalcareous Subsoils 335

Dark Soils With Impervious, Noncalcareous Subsoils 335-337

Yellow Soils With Noncalcareous Subsoils 338

Gray Soils With Impervious, Noncalcareous Subsoils 339-341

Other Soils Represented by Single Fields 341

General Discussion of Response Trends 341

Lasting Effects of Single Applications of Limestone 343

Response Trends as Related to Total Yields 344

ECONOMIC RESPONSES TO LIMESTONE 346

Acre- Values of Crop Increases 346

Ton- Values of Limestone as Measured by Value of Crop Increases.... 349
Problems of Economic Worth 351

RELATION OF LIMESTONE TO VARIOUS SOIL PRODUCTIVITY

FACTORS 352

Soil Acidity 353

Phosphorus Availability 354

Potash Availability 357

INCREASING USE OF AGRICULTURAL LIMESTONE 359

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS.. . 360



Urbana, Illinois June, 1934

Publications in the Bulletin series report the results of investigations

made by or sponsored by the Experiment Station.



Response of Illinois Soils to Limestone

By F. C. BAUER, Chief, Soil Experiment Fields

,OILS derived from limestone are usually productive and dur-
able. This fact is widely recognized in such time-honored
phrases as "a limestone country is a rich country." Not all soils,
however, are derived from limestone and hence they may be naturally
lime-deficient. Then, too, soils in humid climates tend to lose the
lime materials naturally contained in them more or less rapidly thru
the drainage waters and hence may become lime-deficient thru the
operation of natural forces. With increasing deficiency of lime, soil
productivity becomes lower and crop yields are reduced. The pre-
vention and correction of lime deficiencies has become an important
problem in soil management.

The effect on soil productivity of treatments to prevent and cor-
rect lime deficiencies has been studied for many years by the Illinois
Agricultural Experiment Station. Field experiments have been con-
ducted under widely varying soil conditions. The facts revealed have
been widely disseminated thru publications and otherwise and profit-
ably utilized by many farmers in Illinois and elsewhere, but because
of the interest in and importance of such studies it seems desirable
to bring all the facts together in summarized form. In this publica-
tion data have been assembled showing how various kinds of soil re-
spond to applications of lime materials. Analysis of the relative ef-
fectiveness of different methods of applying limestone, including rates
and frequency of liming, and of different finenesses of limestone and
different forms, is reserved for future publications.

Forty Fields Furnish Data for Study

The first field experiments dealing with the influence of lime
materials on Illinois soils were established in the fall of 1901. During
the next seventeen years more than forty such fields were established
over the state, and lime in some form, usually limestone, was given a
prominent place in the treatment scheme.

In these experiments lime materials proved of different value on
different soils. On many soils they were indispensable for successful
crop production. On some soils they proved highly desirable for ef-
ficient production. On other soils they were without any physical
effect, or the effect was so minor as to have no economic value. As
the facts about these experiments became known among Illinois

303



304



BULLETIN No. 405



[June,



farmers, widespread interest developed in the use of limestone for
soil improvement, in which Illinois took the lead.

Many of the Illinois soil experiment fields are still in operation.
With the passage of time they not only continue to demonstrate the




O FIELDS DISCONTINUED
BEFORE 1931



JOLIET9

SPRINGVALLEY
ALEDO KEWANEE
OOUAWKA / MINONK




FIELDS IN OPERATION

THRU 1931



FIG. 1. LOCATION OF SOIL EXPERIMENT FIELDS FURNISHING DATA

FOR THIS PUBLICATION

Twenty-five of the soil experiment fields whose responses to limestone are
analyzed in this publication had been in operation for periods varying from
fourteen to thirty years up to and including the 1931 crop season. Fifteen other
fields, operated for varying periods, were discontinued before 1931.



value of lime materials for soil-improvement purposes, but they also
are bringing to light new management problems. The more recent
results indicate, in addition to the facts stated above: (1) that non-
responsive soils may, with continued cultivation, become responsive;
and (2) that the chemical, physical, and biological changes produced
by the application of lime materials to the soil may in time create new
conditions that must be taken into account in planning management
practices.

Forty of the fields established between 1901 and 1918 supply the



1934] RESPONSE OF ILLINOIS SOILS TO LIMESTONE 305

data for the present study. Twenty-five of these fields were still in
operation in 1931, thus furnishing data for periods of fourteen to
thirty years. Four of these fields were discontinued at the end of the
1931 season.

Widely Varying Soil Conditions Represented

A wide diversity of soil conditions and soil types is represented by
the Illinois soil experiment fields, tho the types can be classified into
ten general groups. The general characteristics of those soils, together
with some information about their natural productiveness, certain
of their chemical qualities, and the limestone applications made to
them are outlined in Tables 1 and 3. The groups are arranged in
descending order according to their natural productivity, a sequence
which is maintained thruout this publication.

During the early years of these experiments no attempt was made
to obtain detailed information about the character of the soils on
which the fields were located. Only the general nature of the fields
that were discontinued is therefore known.

Amounts and Kinds of Lime Materials Applied

No uniform plan for the application of lime materials was in effect
during the early years of these experiments. Slaked lime was the
chief material used in the earliest experiments. It was applied at rates
ranging from 285 pounds to 10,000 pounds an acre. The usual appli-
cation was 400 to 500 pounds an acre and was made at irregular in-
tervals. Ground limestone in amounts ranging from 600 pounds to
20,000 pounds an acre was sometimes used. On some fields regular
applications were made every year for several years. On other fields
large amounts were applied, and usually no further applications were
made for considerable time thereafter.

In 1909 and 1910 a more uniform practice was adopted. Crushed
limestone became the standard material. Initial applications were
made at the rate of 4 tons an acre, the plan being to follow with ap-
plications once during each rotation period at the annual acre-rate of
1,000 pounds, all to be made to the plowed soil just ahead of wheat
seeding. This plan was followed on most fields until 1922 and 1923,
when it became clear that on most plots more limestone was being
applied than was necessary. All applications were then stopped, the
plan being to apply no more limestone until the need for it should
appear.

In these experiments the lime materials were usually applied in
addition either to farm manure or to crop residues in order to repre-



306



BULLETIN No. 405



[June,



TABLE 1. SOIL GROUPS, NATURAL PRODUCTIVITY LEVELS, AND AMOUNTS OF LIME-
STONE APPLIED TO ILLINOIS SOIL EXPERIMENT FIELDS IN OPERATION THRU 1931
(Soil groups and fields are listed in order of natural productivity)



Soil groups and fields


Stage of development


Natural
productivity
as average
acre-yields


First
crop year
after
limestone
applica-
tion


Total
amount
limestone
applied


All
crops


Corn


I. Dark soils with heavy, noncal-
careous subsoils
Hartsburg, Logan county ....
LaMoille, Bureau county ....
Aledo, Mercer county ....


Young
Young
Young
Young


Ibs.

2 600
2 524
2 396
2 388
2 477

2 408

2 372

2 210
2 068
2 139

1 690

1 748
1 723
1 661
1 476
1 652

799

684
494
589

731
611
608
558
527
500
482
574

325


bu.

49.0
46.8
54.8
48.2
49.7

54.6
36.1

44.0
40.1
42.0

30.1

34.4
35.2
26.5
29.0
31.3

19.6

14.2
15.4
14.8

19.8
18.8
18.0
14.1
12.7
10.1
10.7
14.9

11.5


1912
1913
1912
1912

1915
1915

1913
1912

1914

1913
1913
1911
1910

1914

1911
1913

1912
1913
1902
1910
1916
1913
1910

1918


tons

8.50
7.75
8.25
8.25

6.75
6.75

7.75
8.25

7.40

7.75

7.75
8.75
9.25

7.90

8.75
7.75

8.25
7.25
8.95
9.25
6.75
5.50
9.25

5.25


Minonk, Woodford county. . .


II. Dark soils with noncalcareous
subsoils


Young
Semi mature

Semi mature
Semi mature


III. Brownish-yellow soils with open,
noncalcareous subsoils
Springvalley, Bureau county. .

IV. Dark soils with open, noncalcare-
ous subsoils
Mt. Morris, Ogle county




V. Dark soils with impervious, cal-
careous subsoils


Young (erosion)

Semi mature
Semi mature
Semimature
Mature


VI. Dark soils with impervious, non-
calcareous subsoils
Carthage, Hancock county. . .
Clayton, Adams county


Lebanon, St. Clair county.. . .
Carlinville, Macoupin county


VII. Sandy loams and sands
Oquawka, Henderson county. .

VIII. Yellow soils with noncalcareous
subsoils
Unionville, Massac county. . .
Enfield, White county


Semimature

Mature
Mature


Average


IX. Gray soils with impervious, non-
calcareous subsoils
Oblong, Crawford county ....
Toledo, Cumberland county. .
Odin, Marion county


Old (moderately drained)
Old (poorly drained)
Old (poorly drained)
Old (poorly drained)
Old (very poorly drained)
Old (poorly drained)
Old (moderately drained)




Sparta, Randolph county. . . .
.Newton, Jasper county


Ewing, Franklin county
Average


X. Hilly land
Elizabethtown, Hardin county


Mature



sent both the livestock and the grain systems of farming. In the grain
system a legume, usually sweet clover, has been seeded in a small-
grain crop and plowed down as a green manure for the following corn
crop.



1934\ RESPONSE OF ILLINOIS SOILS TO LIMESTONE 307

Crop Rotations Followed

Definite crop rotations have been practiced on all fields. Usually
each crop in the rotation has been grown each year. These rotations
have varied somewhat, but on many fields wheat, corn, oats, and
clover have been the standard rotation. In the grain system of farm-
ing such a rotation is ideal for the use of sweet clover as a green
manure for the corn crop. On a few fields a larger proportion of
legumes was grown by adding alfalfa as a fifth crop in the rotation
scheme.

DIFFERENCES AMONG SOILS IN RESPONSE
TO LIMESTONE

The effectiveness of limestone in increasing crop yields on the
different types of soil to be found in Illinois is indicated by the figures
in Table 2 reporting the crop yields on twenty- four experiment fields
in operation thru 1931. In order to have a common basis for compari-
sons, the crops grown and harvested, excluding the stover and the
straw, have been converted into pounds.

Simple differences between the crop yields on limed and unlimed
plots are one measure of the response of a soil to liming. Another
useful measure is the ratio between such yields. Attention is called
to such ratios in all the yield tables presented in this bulletin. Ratios
of unity (1.000) or less indicate that the limestone applications failed
to increase yields. Ratios greater than unity indicate that yields were
increased and the extent of the increase in relation to yields from
untreated plots. Thus a ratio of 1.365 represents a 36.5 percent in-
crease in yield. Yields from limed plots, which are not always given,
may be ascertained by multiplying the unlimed yield by its accompany-
ing ratio.

Response as Related to Natural Productivity

It is evident from study of Table 2 that the response of soils to
limestone tends to vary with their natural productivity and that the
lower the natural productivity of a soil, the greater its response to
limestone. The dark soils with heavy, noncalcareous subsoils, ranking
first in natural productivity, gave practically no response, the increase
in crop yields on the four fields in this group averaging only 3 per-
cent in the grain system. The hilly land, ranking lowest in natural pro-
ductivity, gave the most pronounced response, the crop yields on the
one field in this group being increased more than 150 percent by lime-
stone applications. The response of the other eight groups of soils
ranged between these two extremes.



308



BULLETIN No. 405



TABLE 2. RESPONSE OF ILLINOIS SOILS TO LIMESTONE, AS INDICATED BY CROP

YIELDS FROM EXPERIMENT FIELDS OPERATED THRU 1931

(Figures indicate average annual acre-yields of all crops grown,

excluding stover and straws)



Soil groups and fields in
order of natural
productivity


Manure system


Residues system


Manure
(1)


Manure,
lime-
stone

(2)


In-
crease

(3)


Ratio
ML
M

(4)


Resi-
dues

(5)


Resi-
dues,
lime-
stone

(6)


In-
crease

(7)


Ratio
RL
R

(8)


I. Dark soils with heavy, non-
calcareous subsoils
Hartsburg


Ibs.
3 102
3 175
3 095
2 914
3 071

3 020

2 782

2 956
2 886
2 921

2 144

2 489
2 491
2 386
1 922
2 322

1 386

973
736
854

1 090
890


Ibs.
3 418
3 198
3 401
2 904
3 230

3 158

2 904

3 273
3 101
3 187

2 499

2 858
2 953
2 666
2 616
2 773

2 334

1 437
1 660
1 548

870
682


Ibs.
316
23
306
- 10
159

138

122

317
215
266

355

369
462
280
694
451

948

464
924
694

780
792


1.097
1.007
1.099
.997
1.052

1.046

1.044

1.107
1.074
1.091

1.166

1.148
1.185
1.113
1.361
1.194

1.684

1.477
2.255
1.813

.716
.890


Ibs.
2 931
2 591
2 486
2 377
2 596

2 326

2 443

2 042
2 123
2 082

1 631

1 758
1 805
1 476
1 472
1 628

947

600
537
569

856
598
660
563
446
454
427
572

391


Ibs.
2 879
2 737
2 705
2 371
2 673

2 588

2 555

2 579
2 386
2 482

1 887

2 232
2 361
1 890
2 010
2 123

1 741

1 040
1 174
1 107

1 363
1 215
924
1 246
929
923
1 095
1 099

1 000


Ibs.
- 52
146
219
- 6
77

262

112

537
263
400

256

474
556
414
538
495

794

440
637
538

507
617
264
683
483
469
668
527

609


.982
1.056
1.O88
.997
1.030

1.112

1.045

1.263
1.124
1.192

1.157

1.270
1.308
1.280
1.365
1.304

1.838

1.733
2.186
1.946

1.592
2.032
1.400
2.214
2.083
2.033
2.564
1.921

2.558


LaMoille


Aledo




Average


II. Dark soils with noncalcare-
ous subsoils


III. Brownish-yellow soils -with
open, noncalcareous
subsoils


IV. Dark soils with open, non-
calcareous subsoils
Mt. Morris






V. Dark soils with impervious,
calcareous subsoils
Joliet


VI. Dark soils with impervious,
noncalcareous subsoils
Carthage




Lebanon






VII. Sandy loams and sands


VIII. Yellow soils with noncal-
careous subsoils
Unionville


Enfield




IX. Gray soils with impervious,
noncalcareous subsoils
Oblong


Toledo


Odin


Raleigh


891
862
836
781
892

618


775
583
515
805
705

1 384


884
721
679
1 024
813

766


.992
.836
.812
2.311
1.911

2.239


Sparta


Newton


Ewing


Average


X. Hilly land
Elizabethtown. . .



The relation between the natural productivity of a soil and its
response to limestone is not, however, entirely consistent, as may be
seen from Fig. 2. Groups III and V, for example, show a somewhat



1934]



RESPONSE OF ILLINOIS SOILS TO LIMESTONE



309



low response in relation to their natural productive levels, while Group
VII shows an unusually high response. Each of these three groups
of soils, however, is represented by only a single field, a fact that may
partially explain the irregularities, especially since these fields repre-
sent in some respects the extremes of their groups. The Joliet field,
representing Group V, is exceptionally deficient in phosphorus ; the



RELATIVE PRODUCTIVE LEVELS
ACTUAL CROP INCREASES, POUNDS
E3 PERCENTAGE CROP INCREASES



800




400



v 21 yn vnr
SOIL GROUPS

FIG. 2. COMPARATIVE RESPONSE OF TEN GROUPS OF ILLINOIS SOILS

TO LIMESTONE APPLICATIONS

The black bars represent pounds of crop increase produced by limestone,
the shaded bars the percentage increases resulting from limestone. The natural
productivity of the various soil groups compared with Group I is shown by the
broken line. It is evident that the response of a soil to limestone varies more
or less inversely with its natural productivity. Highly productive soils tend to
respond the least and the less productive soils the most.



Oquawka field, representing Group VII, is exceptionally sandy; and
the Springvalley field, representing Group III, has a highly perme-
able soil profile which permits deeper feeding of the crop plants.

Quite different relationships between the actual yield increase on
a given soil and the percentage yield increase (response ratio) are
evident among the various soil groups. For all of the dark-colored
groups the actual yield increases are more striking than the response
ratios, while for the sandy and the light-colored groups the response
ratios are more striking than the actual yield increases. Leaving the
sandy group out of consideration and comparing the light-colored
groups (VIII, IX, and X) with the least productive dark-colored
group (VI), one observes that there is not a great deal of difference
in the actual yield increases resulting from the use of limestone on



310 BULLETIN No. 405 [June,

these soils. Evidently when natural productivity levels are very low,
differences in level make little difference in the actual increases that
can be obtained by applications of limestone. With actual increases
in yield remaining the same, percentage responses will of course rise
as the natural levels of productivity decline. Deficiencies other than
limestone, along with other characteristics peculiar to these light-
colored soils, such as stage of development, are undoubtedly impor-
tant factors in the variations which they have shown in their response
to limestone.

Response as Related to Chemical Factors

A study of limestone responses as related to the natural produc-
tivity of the soil has increasing significance when one examines some
of the chemical properties of the soil. Such chemical data are pre-
sented in Table 3. These data include those obtained by the Comber
potassium-thiocyanate test, widely used as a rapid field test ; those
obtained from hydrogen-ion determinations, in terms of pH, 1 a meas-
ure of active acidity or alkalinity; those obtained by the Bray-DeTurk
lime-requirement test, 2 a field test based on the deficiency of exchange-
able calcium; and some laboratory data pertaining to replaceable
bases. 3

Replaceable-base data are now generally regarded as satisfactorily
explaining the lime responses of soils. At this point it is of interest
to consider in greater detail the data presented in Table 3. In Columns
2, 3, and 4 are shown the acre-amounts of replaceable calcium and
magnesium in the different soil groups. In no group are the totals of
these elements (Column 4) and the total base-exchange capacity of
the soil (Column 5) equal on the unlimed land. The calcium and
magnesium are insufficient to satisfy the total base-exchange capacity
of the soil. This means that other replaceable bases are present, or



'A pH value of 7.0 represents neutrality. Decreasing values represent in-
creasing acidity, and increasing values represent increasing alkalinity. Soils of
good productivity are usually slightly acid, ranging in pH values from 6.0 to
7.0. A soil with a pH value as low as 4.0 is exceedingly unfavorable to the
growth of ordinary crops.

'Method described in Soil Science 32, 5:329 (1931).

'When soils are mixed with salt solutions, a rapid exchange of bases takes
place between the soil and the salt. The character and the quantity of the
bases entering into this exchange depend upon the nature of the soil and the
salt solution used. The calcium, magnesium, and other bases shown by such
tests to be present in replaceable form are commonly referred to as "exchange-
able bases." Chemists have found the results of such tests useful in explaining
many behaviors of soils. Such tests are now widely used in soil-acidity and
lime-response studies.



19341



RESPONSE OF ILLINOIS SOILS TO LIMESTONE



311



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I. Dark soils with
soils
Hartsburg. .
Hartsburg. .


II. Dark soils with t
Kewanee. . . .


III. Brownish-yellow
careous sub
Springvalley.


IV. Dark soils with
soils
Mt. Morris. .
Mt. Morris. .


V. Dark soils with
subsoils
Joliet
Joliet

VI. Dark soils with t
subsoils
Clayton. . . .
Clayton


VII. Sandy loams an
Oquawka . . .
Oquawka . . .


VIII. Yellow soils wi
Unionville. .
Unionville. .


IX. Gray soils with i
subsoils
Ewing
Ewing


X. Hilly land
Elizabethtow
Elizabethtow



312 BULLETIN No. 405 [June,

else that hydrogen (indicating acidity) has taken their places. The
pH values of the soil (Column 8) indicate that hydrogen is present.

The amount of replaceable bases in the soil in proportion to the
base-exchange capacity of the soil is indicated in Column 6 under the
heading "degree of saturation." For unlimed land there is consider-
able variation in the degree of saturation among the several soil
groups. The Hartsburg field, representing the dark soils with heavy,
noncalcareous subsoils, contains enough replaceable calcium and mag-
nesium to satisfy 79 percent of the total capacity of the soil to absorb
such bases. The Ewing field, however, representing the gray soils
with impervious, noncalcareous subsoils, shows a saturation of only 17
percent. The other soils range between these extremes.

Jt is now generally believed that when the soil contains sufficient
calcium and magnesium in replaceable form to satisfy about 80 per-
cent of the base-exchange capacity of the soil, limestone is not likely
to be needed for crop production. When this value falls below 80
percent, indicating thereby decreasing availability of calcium and mag-
nesium, limestone is needed for crop production. To say that a soil


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